Thoughts on the Red Wings’ 2021 Roster

The Red Wings made a series of assignments to their taxi squad and to the Grand Rapids Griffins yesterday and, with that, their roster for the 2021 season is pretty much confirmed.

I qualify that because the Red Wings are starting with Bobby Ryan, Darren Helm, and Christian Djoos out of the lineup. So, while this might be the roster on opening night, it’s probably not exactly the one they’d hoped for, nor is it the expected roster on a nightly basis.  Even if they are small changes, we’re probably going to see a bunch of adjustments to this roster over the first month of the season.

Right now the taxi squad consists of Michael Rasmussen, Givani Smith, Dennis Cholowski, Gustav Lindstrom, Kevin Boyle, and Calvin Pickard.  You can bet that, once the Grand Rapids Griffins’ season gets going, five of those players will be in GR.  The Red Wings won’t want any of their youngsters sitting in the press box (or wherever the NHL has mandated that taxi squad players sit) when they could be playing in the AHL. They’ll keep one of the goalies up, as required, then swap out everyone else who isn’t playing for guys like Turner Elson and Dylan McIlrath.

Meanwhile, on the playing roster, we’re seeing these lines:

Obviously we’ve got some taxi squad guys in there but they’re not in positions we need to worry about. Rasmussen and Smith on a “fifth line” with a no-contact Bobby Ryan isn’t a real line and while Lindstrom may very well effectively be the Red Wings’ eighth defenseman right now, they’re not going to roll four pairings in a game so his play alongside Alex Biega in practice doesn’t matter.

The top line has been virtually set in stone since last season so there are no surprises there.  Vladislav Namestnikov with Robby Fabbri and Filip Zadina is somewhat unexpected but likely influenced by Ryan’s injury.  Mathias Brome got some buzz in camp and seemed likely to get some NHL playing time once Helm and Ryan were out.  The fourth line looks a whole lot like a “and everyone else” line as I don’t see a reason for Frans Nielsen to be there.

I think once Ryan returns, we’ll see Nielsen drop out of the lineup (unless he’s rebounded strongly from last season but there’s been no camp chatter to say we should expect that) and Brome drop down a line.  Namestnikov could also move to the third line to make room for Ryan with Fabbri and Zadina.

Helm’s return (which I’m assuming would come later as he’s not even skating right now) would then seemingly push Adam Erne off the fourth line, unless Brome is shown to need AHL time to adjust to the North American game and he is the one who comes out of the lineup.

On defense, the big thing left to see is Djoos’ role on the team.  He’s sticking in the Detroit lineup as he would otherwise have to clear waivers and the Red Wings didn’t claim him just to be a tradable asset as they also can’t trade him without first waiving him.  Does he bump Marc Staal or Troy Stecher off that third pairing or is he just here as another depth guy, effectively replacing Lindstrom alongside Biega?

Assuming what I’ve suggested, a healthy lineup would need one more change, though, as the Red Wings would have 14 forwards, eight defensemen, and two goalies, putting them over the 23-man roster limit.  The easy answer there would be to drop Brome down to the Griffins as he wouldn’t need to clear waivers.  That said, I’ve already advocated for keeping Brome in the lineup over Nielsen and Erne, so a more interesting option would be to waive Nielsen and (assuming he’s not claimed) put him on the taxi squad.  The Red Wings have the salary cap space to eat his contract and the one-season taxi squad gives a place for Nielsen to go where he can’t take a spot with the Griffins from one of the kids who needs it.

Given that the Red Wings just re-confirmed that Nielsen will be an alternate captain under new captain Dylan Larkin, I can’t see them punting him to the sidelines so easily, though.

Obviously further injuries could change this quickly but I think this is an approximation of what we could be looking at under ideal conditions.

Training Camp Jersey Number Notes

The Red Wings kick off their training camp for the truncated 2021 season tomorrow, announcing the camp roster and schedule today.

With the roster announced, I can do one of my favorite things of the season: Look for oddities surrounding jersey numbers.

The team is only taking forty players to camp, so there aren’t as many numbers to look at, and most of those were known already.

The team’s offseason free agent signings – Bobby Ryan, Vladislav Namestnikov, Jon Merrill, Troy Stecher, and Thomas Greiss – were all previously known to be wearing #54, #92, #24, #70, and #29, respectively.  Additionally, trade acquisition Marc Staal was already known to be wearing his usual #18.

Ryan’s #54 was previously worn by Matt Puempel, who the Red Wings did not re-sign over the offseason.  Stecher’s #70 was worn last season by Christoffer Ehn, who was unsigned and returned to Europe.  Greiss’ #29 was worn in last year’s camp by Vili Saarijarvi before being taken by early-season acquisition Brendan Perlini (with Saarijarvi traded away a few weeks later anyway), who was not re-signed by Detroit.  Staal’s #18 had been assigned to Albin Grewe at the 2020 Development Camp.

European free agent signing Mathias Brome has been assigned #86, his usual number.  It was worn in last season’s camp by Charle-Edouard D’Astous.

Depth signings Riley Barber, Kyle Criscuolo, and Kevin Boyle have been assigned #26, #42, and #34, respectively.

Barber’s #26 was worn in camp last season by Griffins captain Matt Ford, who is not in Detroit’s camp this year.  Criscuolo’s #42 was worn by Mathieu Bizier.  Boyle’s #34 had been assigned to Victor Brattstrom at the start of last season and temporarily given to Eric Comrie for the few games he spent in the Red Wings organization.

The only returning player to change jersey numbers is try-out goalie Pat Nagle, who will wear the #68 that the team usually reserves for goalies who aren’t actually in the Red Wings’ system.  In that role last year, he wore #60, while Sean Romeo wore #68.

Criscuolo isn’t a returning player but has been in a Red Wings’ camp before, wearing #74 in 2016 before spending that season with the Griffins.

The full training camp roster is as follows:

Forwards

Num. Name
11 Filip Zadina
14 Robby Fabbri
23 Dominic Turgeon
26 Riley Barber
27 Michael Rasmussen
37 Evgeny Svechnikov
39 Anthony Mantha
41 Luke Glendening
42 Kyle Criscuolo
43 Darren Helm
46 Chase Pearson
48 Givani Smith
51 Valtteri Filppula
54 Bobby Ryan
57 Turner Elson
59 Tyler Bertuzzi
67 Taro Hirose
71 Dylan Larkin
73 Adam Erne
81 Frans Nielsen
86 Mathias Brome
89 Sam Gagner
92 Vladislav Namestnikov

Defensemen

Num. Name
2 Joe Hicketts
3 Alex Biega
17 Filip Hronek
18 Marc Staal
20 Dylan McIlrath
21 Dennis Cholowski
22 Patrik Nemeth
24 Jon Merrill
28 Gustav Lindstrom
32 Brian Lashoff
65 Danny DeKeyser
70 Troy Stecher

Goalies

Num. Name
29 Thomas Greiss
34 Kevin Boyle
36 Kaden Fulcher
45 Jonathan Bernier
68 Pat Nagle

Red Wings Sign Forward Namestnikov

The Detroit Red Wings signed forward Vladislav Namestnikov on Sunday, continuing the rebuild of their roster.

Namestnikov is a familiar face for Detroit GM Steve Yzerman, who drafted him in the first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft for Tampa Bay.

Financial terms were, of course, not officially announced, but the deal reportedly carries a $2 million salary cap hit, with annual amounts of $1.5 million and $2.5 million.  Like Thomas Greiss‘ deal, more money is in the second year.  Whether as escrow protection for the player or expansion draft protection for the team, we’re seeing that become more common this year.

Namestnikov gives the Red Wings another option at second-line center, should Robby Fabbri not work out there.  Theoretically, the team could roll lines looking something like this:

Anthony ManthaDylan LarkinTyler Bertuzzi
Filip Zadina – Vladislav Namestnikov – Robby Fabbri
Dmytro Timashov – Sam GagnerBobby Ryan
Darren HelmLuke GlendeningValtteri Filppula
Adam Erne
Frans Nielsen

That’s a completely rebuilt middle six since the start of last season, done entirely on the cheap.  They’re not world-beaters by any means but that’s not a bad accomplishment for Yzerman.  Perhaps most importantly, that’s a lineup where you can clearly see a top nine and then a fourth line, rather than a top line and then a bunch of other players slotted in wherever they can.

The problem is that this leaves no room for Evgeny Svechnikov, who is basically on a “last chance” one-year deal and would have to clear waivers to be reassigned elsewhere.  Maybe this means the Wings let Zadina stay overseas for another year.  Maybe it means they dump a contract.  I don’t know.

Jersey number geek notes: Namestnikov has worn #90 for virtually his entire career, save for a stint as #65 as a rookie. Will the Red Wings let him take #90 from Joe Veleno? If not, I bet Namestnikov goes with something like #60 or #95. It certainly blocks Bobby Ryan from following in the footsteps of Mike Modano and Stephen Weiss, though, and turning his #9 into #90.  Outside chance?  Namestnikov wears #13 in honor of his uncle, Vyacheslav Kozlov.

Red Wings Extend Forwards Erne, Hirose

The Detroit Red Wings announced the signing of forwards Adam Erne and Taro Hirose to one-year contract extensions on Thursday.

Financial terms were not announced because who would want to know that in a salary cap league?

The pair were set to become restricted free agents after receiving qualifying offers from the team yesterday.

As I mentioned yesterday, I don’t like the idea of bringing Erne back.  I don’t think he offered as much as the Red Wings hoped when they acquired him from Tampa Bay last summer.  That said, at a cheap enough salary that could become irrelevant.

These signings – combined with the Red Wings not giving qualifying offers to Brendan Perlini, Christoffer Ehn, and Madison Bowey – leave the team with three pending restricted free agents.

Day Two Draft Notes

I’m not going to go too deep on what was a very long second day of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.  There are prospects sites for that.

My gut feeling is that they reached once they got past the second round.  There were players dropping, players with supposedly high ceilings there for the taking, and they passed for what seems like safer picks.  If you’re treating each draft pick as a lottery ticket, play the Mega Millions, not the Daily Three.

But what do I know?

I like the selections of defenseman William Wallinder (32nd, 2nd round) and forward Theodor Niederbach (51st, 2nd round).

I also liked goalie Jan Bednar (107th, 4th round), but I would have preferred to see them go with Nico Daws at 70th (after trading down from 65th).

In that same range, perhaps 63rd instead of instead of Donovan Sebrango, I also wanted to see the Wings take a flyer on Jean-Luc Foudy.

Cross Hanas at 55th, Eemil Viro at 70th, Sam Stange at 97th…  I’ll admit, none of those guys were particularly on my radar.

After Alex Cotton at 132nd and Kyle Aucoin at 156th, I think the seventh round picks are interesting.

Detroit went with Kienan Draper, son of Kris Draper, at 187th.  At the time, it was their final pick, and I derisively called it “sentimental” on Twitter.  The late rounds are a crap-shoot anyway so if you want to throw your picks at a kid with ties to the organization, go ahead.  What I thought was weird was that they made the “sentimental” pick with their last pick, then went out and flipped a 2021 7th for 203rd overall this year so they could take Chase Bradley.

To me, that feels like there was a battle over how 187 should have been used and the sentimental choice won out.  Then, after Draper was picked, the Wings went out and got another pick to grab their other guy.

Just feels weird to me but I could be overreacting.


In other breaking news today, it was revealed that the Red Wings did not submit qualifying offers to Madison Bowey, Brendan Perlini, or Christoffer Ehn.  The three will become unrestricted free agents on Friday.

As I said on Twitter, I would have qualified Bowey before Perlini or Adam Erne, despite any pending blueline logjam.  I kind of hope that if other offers aren’t there, that Bowey and Ehn get circled back to.  On league-minimum deals, those guys could be useful depth, known-quantities.  In particular, I like Bowey as a seventh or eighth defenseman more than Brian Lashoff or Dylan McIlrathDominic Turgeon could easily take Ehn’s spot so I’m less worried about him.

I’d have let Erne walk but apparently the Wings are going to try to bring him back.  I don’t see him having anything the Wings organization doesn’t already have.  He was brought in to see what he could do with more playing time and the answer is not much.

Perlini is disappointing in general.  I didn’t like giving up Alec Regula to get him and now Perlini is on his way out.  Just a waste.

Red Wings Continue Roster Shuffle, Acquire Fabbri from Blues for de la Rose

Detroit Red Wings General Manager Steve Yzerman continued to shuffle his team’s roster on Wednesday night, swapping forward Jacob de la Rose to the St. Louis Blues for Robby Fabbri.

Fabbri is the second player drafted in the first round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft that Yzerman has acquired in the last two weeks, after bringing in Brendan Perlini from the Chicago Blackhawks.

The way I see it, de la Rose maxed out as a fourth liner and the Red Wings have enough of those.  Additionally, de la Rose was acquired for “free” via waivers last year, making it easier to part with him.

Like Perlini (and Adam Erne before him), Fabbri is someone who Yzerman likely thinks could use a change of scenery and a different role.  I’m not sure how much I agree with that but, at such a relatively cheap cost, I’m on board with the throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks approach.

Fabbri marks the third player the Red Wings have acquired since the start of the season, having previously traded for defenseman Alex Biega and Perlini.  Additionally, the team parted ways with longtime defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, sending him through waivers to the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Red Wings Acquire Forward Perlini from Blackhawks

The Detroit Red Wings acquired forward Brendan Perlini from the Chicago Blackhawks in return for defensive prospect Alec Regula on Monday.

My snap judgement is that Perlini seems underwhelming and unnecessary.  Regula may not project to a future all-star but I don’t understand this deal.

That said…

Perlini is only 23 and a season removed from a 17-13-30 campaign with the Coyotes.  He wasn’t getting playing time with the Blackhawks.  The Red Wings’ offense is a mess.  There is definitely an opportunity in Detroit for him.

Of course, the flip side of that is that this is exactly the expectation for Adam Erne, who hasn’t exactly looked spectacular since joining the Red Wings.

With Perlini now on the roster, Evgeny Svechnikov will almost certainly rejoin the Grand Rapids Griffins, as will Givani Smith (though Smith was likely headed down with Erne and Justin Abdelkader coming back).  That roster math implies that the Red Wings are higher on Perlini than they are on Svechnikov.

I don’t know what to make of this one and I think I’ll have to leave it at that.

Red Wings Waive Ericsson, Shuffle Roster

Slightly surprising news today, as the Red Wings have placed Jonathan Ericsson on waivers.

As I noted via Twitter, I’d expected Ericsson to somehow never recover from his injury and just ride out the season on IR, then retire this summer.

At his age and coming off of injury, any other team claiming Ericsson is unlikely.  That said, it doesn’t mean that he’s bound for Grand Rapids at noon tomorrow, as the team also made a series of other moves.

With Ericsson coming off of IR, Alex Biega was sent down to the Griffins.  Biega had cleared waivers while he was still with the Canucks organization so he didn’t need to be waived again.

Forward Adam Erne went on IR retroactive to October 18, with the team using that roster spot to call up Evgeny Svechnikov from the Grand Rapids.

The Erne/Svechnikov moves are a pretty simple one-for-one swap.  With Erne out, the Red Wings want to get Svechnikov up.

Biega being sent to Grand Rapids clears a spot for Ericsson to come back.  I was under the impression that a player on waivers did not count against the roster limit unless he played in a game while on waivers, which could be wrong but I swear Detroit did it with Drew Miller at one point.

If my impression is right, it means that Biega only needed to be sent down if there was a chance that Ericsson would play tonight against Vancouver.  If the Wings are in need of a defenseman, it could have just been Biega playing.  This implies that either my impression is wrong or something else is happening.

Assuming that Ericsson does not play tonight and clears waivers tomorrow, Biega being in Grand Rapids already will have cleared a roster spot for Ericsson to stay in Detroit, which could be that “something.”  Ericsson clearing waivers gives the Red Wings some flexibility in setting their roster but it doesn’t mean he has to be sent down.

Biega being with the Griffins puts them in a roster crunch, with Oliwer Kaski and Vili Sarrijarvi already rotating in and out of the third defensive pair.  As such, keeping him there does not seem to be a valid long-term plan.

My gut feeling is that, if Ericsson clears waiver and if he is assigned to Grand Rapids, he could choose to retire rather than report.  This might be the best solution for everyone involved, as Ericsson would avoid riding the bus in the AHL to close out his career while the Red Wings wouldn’t be hit by salary cap recapture penalties as Ericsson is in the last year of his contract.  Additionally, the Wings could then call Biega back up, taking care of some of the blueline logjam throughout the organization.

I admit, though, that scenario doesn’t seem like the “Red Wings Way.”  We’ll have to wait to see how new GM Steve Yzerman plays this.

Thoughts on the Opening Night Roster

I’ve struggled to put together words about what I think of the Red Wings’ expected lineup on Saturday in Nashville.

Some years you can look at the lineup and there’s something odd about it, either good or bad, that makes things interesting.  An unexpected missing player or a prospect who had a breakout camp to make the team.

Maybe you could say the absence of Niklas Kronwall is the former but, given the fact that his retirement was kind of telegraphed and the glut of defensemen on the Red Wings’ roster, I don’t really think so.

The roster that the Wings will open the season with has pretty much been set since the July 1 signings of Patrik Nemeth and Valtteri Filppula.  Once Adam Erne was acquired on August 14, the idea of Filip Zadina or Joe Veleno or Evgeny Svechnikov challenging for a roster spot in camp was put to bed.

I’ll admit, part of why I was hopeful that the Red Wings would claim Josh Ho-Sang off of waivers is that at least it would be a surprise and give something to follow.

I’m not saying there’s nothing exciting about the Detroit lineup.  It’s just most of that excitement is centered around six or seven players.

Yes, I want to see what the line of Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Tyler Bertuzzi can do together over an entire season.  I want to see if Taro Hirose is the real deal after the hot start to his pro career last spring.  I want to see if Filip Hronek takes another step and if Dennis Cholowski can stick in Detroit.

And I always want to watch Andreas Athanasiou.

That’s a third of the team.

There are a lot of players on the Red Wings’ roster for whom my hope going into the season is simply that they don’t regress.  Or, in some cases, don’t continue to regress.  My expected best case scenario for them is for me to not notice they’re out there.

This is not going to be a good team.  Yeah, some of the players have to talk about just getting in and then surprising people.  Aside from that, no one is predicting Detroit to finish outside of the bottom five in the league.

This is a rebuilding team.  We should expect them to be bad.  It’s beneficial, to a certain extent, for them to be bad, as it should help their draft position.

It is not, however, an exciting team.  There may be some exciting players but it is not an exciting team.

This team is built to lose, but hopefully not embarrassingly.  A big part of the roster is there to just not screw up so badly that the remaining players can’t make something of it.

That’s not much to get excited about.

2019 Training Camp Jersey Number Notes

With the Red Wings having claimed the Matthew Wuest Memorial Cup as champions of the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, the team is ready for their main training camp to begin, and with that comes the release of their training camp roster.

The roster includes 67 players.  Only two players who were on the Prospects Tournament roster will not be appearing in the main camp – Elmer Soderblom and Gustav Berglund.  No NHL free agents will be appearing with the Red Wings as pro try-outs.

There are no surprise jersey number changes revealed by the roster announcement.

Evgeni Svechnikov, who missed the entire 2018-19 season, will keep the #37 he was scheduled to wear last year.  He wore that number for his debut in 2016-17 before switching to #77 for the 2017-18 campaign.

Finnish free agent signing Oliwer Kaski claims that #77, after having worn #7 with Pelicans last season.  Kaski taking #77 would explain why Taro Hirose, who specifically was looking for a number with seven in it, took #67 instead of #77.

I had speculated that #26 might have gone to Thomas Vanek on a PTO but that ended up going to Grand Rapids Griffins’ captain Matt Ford, who was assigned #77 last fall.  Similarly, I thought that #50 might go to someone on a try-out but, instead, it’s been assigned to Dominik Shine, with Ryan Kuffner having taken the #56 that Shine wore in camp last year.

Goalie Calvin Pickard, the Red Wings’ only remaining free agent signing to not have a number announced, has taken #31.  He’s worn #30 in the past but Detroit has that semi-retired for Chris Osgood, it would seem.

The #3 worn last season by Nick Jensen has been assigned to defenseman Jared McIsaacLibor Sulak‘s #47 has gone to Marcus Crawford of the Griffins.

Any other changes are related to camp invitees and/or were already confirmed.

The full training camp roster is as follows:

Forwards

Num. Name
8 Justin Abdelkader
11 Filip Zadina
15 Chris Terry
23 Dominic Turgeon
26 Matthew Ford
27 Michael Rasmussen
37 Evgeny Svechnikov
39 Anthony Mantha
41 Luke Glendening
42 Mathieu Bizier
43 Darren Helm
46 Chase Pearson
48 Givani Smith
50 Dominik Shine
51 Valtteri Filppula
54 Matt Puempel
56 Ryan Kuffner
57 Turner Elson
58 David Pope
59 Tyler Bertuzzi
61 Jacob de la Rose
62 Cody Morgan
64 Josh Kestner
67 Taro Hirose
70 Christoffer Ehn
71 Dylan Larkin
72 Andreas Athanasiou
73 Adam Erne
75 Troy Loggins
76 Jarid Lukosevicius
78 Gregor MacLeod
79 Thomas Casey
81 Frans Nielsen
82 Tyler Spezia
88 Chad Yetman
89 Owen Robinson
90 Joe Veleno

Defensemen

Num. Name
2 Joe Hicketts
3 Jared McIsaac
17 Filip Hronek
20 Dylan McIlrath
21 Dennis Cholowski
22 Patrik Nemeth
25 Mike Green
28 Gustav Lindstrom
29 Vili Saarijarvi
32 Brian Lashoff
47 Marcus Crawford
52 Jonathan Ericsson
53 Moritz Seider
63 Alec McCrea
65 Danny DeKeyser
74 Madison Bowey
77 Oliwer Kaski
83 Trevor Daley
86 Charle-Edouard D’Astous
87 Marc-Olivier Duquette
94 Alec Regula
98 Owen Lalonde

Goalies

Num. Name
31 Calvin Pickard
35 Jimmy Howard
36 Kaden Fulcher
38 Filip Larsson
45 Jonathan Bernier
60 Pat Nagle
68 Sean Romeo
80 Anthony Popovich